Vintage WWII-era bomber visits region enroute to United Kingdom
© Photo by Bonnie Learning/The Labradorian
A Mach 10 Lancaster arrived at 5 Wing Goose Bay on Aug. 5, where it overnighted before heading off to Iceland and the United Kingdom. One of only two operational Lancaster’s in the world, the one that came to 5 Wing belongs to the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Hamilton, Ont., and is heading to the UK to take part in 22 air shows over the next two months, with the other Lancaster and other aircraft.
A vintage WWII-era bomber touched down at 5 Wing Goose on Aug. 5, the first time the area has seen this type of aircraft since the 1940’s.
The aircraft is one of only two of its kind in the world, the other being in the United Kingdom (UK).
The 1945 Mach 10 Lancaster was at 5 Wing Goose Bay for an overnight stop from its base in Hamilton, Ont., as it makes its way to Iceland and then the UK, where it will participate in 22 air shows over the next two months.
Matthew Mumson is a civilian engineer with the crew, one of six volunteer crew members — including three pilots — manning the flight on its journey.
“When we get to the UK, it will be first time in 50 years that two Lancaster’s will be flown together,” said Mumson, noting the one they came to Goose Bay on belongs to the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Hamilton, Ont.
“The other only operational Lancaster belongs to the Royal Air Force in the UK.”
Mumson said the Lancaster gets about 50 hours of flying time each year for maintenance and upkeep, and this particular journey is costing $750,000 — funds which were raised in the UK.
He explained the Mach 10 Lancaster was a ‘heavy bomber’, which was involved, in such significant operations as D-Day and the ‘dam busters raid’ in Germany during WWII.
“There were 7,700 of these planes produced during the war,” he said. “It basically won the war for the British, Canadian and Allied forces.”
However, he notes, it came at a cost.
“When a pilot took one of these out, they only had a 50 per cent chance of coming back alive. About 10,000 Canadians died in these aircrafts, so it was pretty risky.”
Mumson explained the Lancaster was equipped with three gunners — one in the front, mid-craft and rear, and was built with four, 12-cylinder Rolls Royce Merlin engines.
“This plane has a massive history,” said Mumson. “This plane is the better part of 70 years old. It’s a pleasure to fly her.”
He added there has been a tremendous amount of response to the upcoming arrival in the UK.
“It’s taking the UK by storm,” he said. “We have 22 air shows coming up and one show sold 6,000 tickets in just 18 hours.”
Don Schofield is the pilot in command of the Lancaster’s flight to the UK.
He echoes Mumson’s comments.
“This flight is not being referred to as ‘the Lancaster’ or anything else in the UK,” he said. “It’s actually being referred to as ‘the Canadians are coming.’”
Schofield — a retired RCAF and Air Canada pilot — said that is a real source of pride for him.
He also notes that being given command of the Lancaster on this journey is like the ‘crown jewel’ of his career.
“If I were to retire after arriving in the UK, I would retire a happy person,” he said.
“I can’t think of a better distinction then being given this level of trust by the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum and its board of directors.”
Although the Lancaster that Schofield is flying had never actually seen combat — it having been built at the end of the war in 1945, and used as a search and rescue aircraft until its refurbishment in 1988 — he says it doesn’t make it any less important with regards to its history.
“We have to think of the young men who went to war in these planes and paid the ultimate sacrifice. When you’re having the worst of days, just think of the worst of their days — many never came home.”
The crew left 5 Wing Goose Bay on the morning of Aug. 6.
A vintage WWII-era bomber touched down in at 5 Wing Goose a short time ago.
A handful of people were on hand to watch the aircraft fly in. It made several fly-bys over the airport, as people took pictures.
Perry Trimper was one of those on hand to watch the plane make its appearance.
"What a role Goose Bay played as a stopover for these planes," said Trimper.
A military history buff, Trimper said the coolest thing about seeing the plane come in was to hear the "purring of the Rolls Royce engines."
"To have the chance to see and hear this plane is a real thrill," he said.
Phil Robertson was also on hand to watch the plane come in.
He was in Happy Valley-Goose Bay from Alberta to visit family, but made a special point to book his travel during the Lancaster visit.
“I had heard this was the only Lancaster in North America,” he said.
“Being of my generation, there is still a certain attachment to the (war).”